Tag Archives: music from Birmingham (England)

June 2016 – upcoming London jazz – Entropi & Mike Chillingworth Trio at the Vortex, The Tommy Remon Quartet at Map (both on the 5th), and nearly ten hours of international LUME festival at the end of the month (26th)

31 May

There’s an imminent weekend of jazz coming up, plus an all-dayer at the end of the month…

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LUME presents:
Entropi & Mike Chillingworth Trio
Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Street, N16 8JH.
Sunday 5th June 2016, 7.30pm
more information

“To round off this season of LUME at The Vortex, we’ve got an exciting double bill of new and improvised music.

Entropi (photo by Carl Hyde)

Entropi (photo by Carl Hyde)

Entropi is a vehicle for Dee Byrne‘s ‘space-jazz’ compositions, exploring a narrative of life-pondering, stargazing and risk-taking. Juggling order and chaos, composition and improvisation, the group takes listeners on a journey with compelling group interplay, strong themes, open-ended improvisation, dark grooves and interweaving melodic textures. The ensemble comprises Dee (on alto saxophone), trumpeter Andre Canniere, keyboardist Rebecca Nash, drummer Matt Fisher and bassist Olie Brice. Having performed live together for some time, the band has achieved a striking empathy and freedom to take risks. Their debut album ‘New Era’ was released on the F-IRE Presents label in June 2015, with their second album to come on Whirlwind Recordings in 2017.

Mike Chillingworth

Mike Chillingworth

“We are really looking forward to welcoming alto saxophonist and composer Mike Chillingworth and his trio. In his own words:

“‘I formed this trio last year as a means to play music with an emphasis on spontaneity and improvisation. I have another project, a septet, which is all about detailed written compositions. This trio is the antidote to that. I will be performing with two fantastic improvisers: US drum legend Jeff Williams (who has played with everybody, including two of my favourite saxophonists Joe Lovano and Stan Getz) and Conor Chaplin on bass (who plays in many of the most exciting new UK bands at of the moment).

“I often deliberately avoid choosing repertoire for a gig until the last moment, often writing new tunes in the days leading up to a performance, or taking ideas from whatever I happen to be listening to at the time. Whatever we choose to play on this occasion the emphasis will be on improvising, communicating, listening and exploring together.'”

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On the same night, you’ve also got the chance to check out some new start-of-career talent at one of London’s nicest small venues – the Map Studio Café, tucked away in the Kentish Town side-streets. I’ve wanted to talk about this place since discovering it on a random stroll after a swimming session at the Prince of Wales Baths, when its easygoing atmosphere and hopeful spirit provided an ideal wind-down opportunity: the compact performance space upstairs and the talk of a built-in recording studio piqued my interest, and this week’s gig gives me something solid to plug…

Map Studio Café presents:
The Tommy Remon Quartet
Map Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Sunday 5th June 2016, 8.00pm
more information

Tommy Remon, 2016

Tommy Remon, 2016

Led by up-and-coming guitarist Tommy Remon, this quartet has emerged from the Tomorrow’s Warriors Organisation, which encourages young British jazz talent (focussing on people from the African diaspora, with an additional focus on encouraging girls and women into the form). Currently playing hard bop and modal tunes from the jazz canon, as well as their own original compositions, the band are at a self-confessed early stage despite their collective musical strength, and are hungry to develop further insight and breadth. Now, however, is the ideal time to catch them while they’re young, hungry and open, and about to start on their first significant expansion.

The other members of the band are double bass player Rio Kai (who’s played with Jason Yarde and Alex Garnett), drummer Patrick Boyle (Tomorrow’s Warriors Big Band, Nathaniel Facey) – both of whom previously worked with Tommy in a trio – and trumpeter Dylan Jones, who’s still an undergraduate at Trinity Laban, but is already a member of EZRA Collective. Between them, the band members have also worked with Tomorrow’s Warriors founder Gary Crosby, Nérija, Binker Golding and Kokoroko.

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Three weeks later we’ll be back with LUME, who are summarising their current state of play via their first festival, which they successfully crowdfunded following an appeal earlier in the year (with backup from Arts Council England, and the Austrian Cultural Forum). It looks as if it’s going to be both a broad and a familial occasion, with many LUME regulars reappearing in a variety of bands and contexts, with strong playing contributions from the LUME organisers themselves, and with a substantial presence as regards the female jazz musicians which LUME in part encourages (just over a quarter of the twenty-seven players involved are women, most of them also being group leaders, co-leaders and composers). Tickets are limited and are going on sale at the start of June.

LUME Festival 2016

LUME presents:
LUME Festival: Word Of Moth + Ant Traditions + Hot Beef Three + Little Church + Kjær/Musson/Marshall + Blueblut + Article XI
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Sunday 26th June 2016, 1.00pm-10.30pm
more information

  • The day’s headliners are Word Of Moth, the London-based collaborative quartet which includes the two LUME founders on saxophones (Dee Byrne on alto, Cath Roberts on baritone) alongside Seth Bennett (bass) and Tom Greenhalgh (drums).
  • Article XI is a freewheeling large ensemble led by guitarist Anton Hunter, originally put together for the 2014 Manchester Jazz Festival but deemed too good not to continue with. Mingling free improvisation with tightly-composed contrapuntal writing, it also features Oliver Dover (alto sax, also of Saxoctopus and many others), Tom Ward (tenor sax), Cath Roberts (baritone sax), Johnny Hunter (drums), Seth Bennett (bass), Graham South and Nick Walters (trumpets), and Tullis Rennie and Richard Foote (trombones).
  • Vienna-based Blueblut was founded by three musical powerhouses, famous in their respective spheres of jazz, electronic and avant-rock music. The band have the intensity of rock, the space and openness of electronica and the razor-sharp precision and wild improvisation of jazz. Featuring Led Bib’s Mark Holub on drums, Pamela Stickney on theremin and Chris Janka (flying machine maker, sound engineer, automata creator and Viennese Caractacus Potts figure) on guitar and overall production.
  • Musson/Kjær/Marshall are a fantastic London trio of committed European-scene improvisers and extended-technique instrumentalists, all of whom happen to be female: Rachel Musson (tenor sax), Julie Kjær (alto sax) and Hannah Marshall (cello).
  • Little Church are a Birmingham-based fusion quartet, playing compositions both from and inspired by Miles Davis’ electric period. Led by keyboard player David Austin Grey, the rest of the band is made up from Aaron Diaz (trumpet), Rachael Cohen (alto sax), Chris Mapp (double bass, bass guitar and electronics) and Tymek Joswiak (drums). Little Church fuses live acoustic instruments with synthesizers and electronics to produce a wonderfully ambient soundscape, which moves from meditative and hypnotising through to driving and funky with a seamless fluidity.
  • Hot Beef Three brings some of Leeds’ finest improvisers together: saxophonist Oliver Dover (see above),  guitarist Craig Scott (Ikestra, Craig Scott’s Lobotomy) and drummer Andrew Lisle. (All three already play together as part of Leeds’ notorious eclecti-chaos band Shatner’s Bassoon.)
  • Ant Traditions are a top-notch Manchester improv duo featuring Adam Fairhall (toy pianos) and Dave Birchall (electric guitar).

There’s a sonic buffet provided below to keep you happy until the end of June:








 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – London jazz (imminent gigs for Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark and for Madwort Sax Quartet; plus a crowdfunder for a LUME festival in June).

14 Apr

Two imminent London jazz gigs which might be of interest…

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Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark, 15th April 2016

Jazz at The Richmond presents:
Bright Moments Trio with Graham Clark
The Richmond Arms, 1 Orchardson Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8NG, England
Friday 15th April 2016, 8.00pm
more information

A low-key concert of “originals and standards” from the Bright Moments Trio (who are Jonathan Cohen on keyboards and vocals, Dave Fowler on drums and Francois Moreau on double bass. At this gig, they’re augmented by Graham Clark on violin.

All of which sounds bland – just another earnest listing at another jazz pub – unless you’re looking into the pedigree of the people involved. With Dave’s involvement with assorted Flimflam acts (such as free-yak London improv favourites Ya Basta!), a near-thirty-year journey for Francois across the New Wave of British Heavy Metal en route to blues and jazz, and Jonathan’s own tireless and enthrallingly broad body of work across multiple genres and instrumentation, theatre and conceptual songwriting (including, for the jazz purists, work with Alec Dankworth and Christine Tobin.) As for Graham – while he mostly presents as an obliging Buxton-based jazz violinist these days, his history takes in a stint with Gong and a long history of hook-ups with fervid Manchester improvisers and London players. Come along to this one: I think that you’ll be surprised.

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Madwort Sax Quartet, 2016

LUME presents:
Madwort Saxophone Quartet
Hundred Years Gallery, 13 Pearson Street, Hoxton, London, E2 8JD, England
Saturday 16th April 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Blurb compiled from various sources:

“We’re very happy to welcome the Madwort Sax Quartet – Tom Ward (alto saxophone/compositions); Chris Williams (alto/soprano saxophone); Andy Woolf (tenor sax); Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone) – to Hundred Years Gallery for an exciting event in the group’s life: the recording of their debut album. Yes indeed, this gig will be expertly captured by the technical wizardry of Alex Bonney for a future release. Having played a sold-out gig at Manchester Jazz Festival in the summer – ably assisted at the last minute by LUME’s own Dee Byrne – the quartet are now back on home turf for this special performance.

The band explores irregular grooves and unusual harmonies inspired by mathematics and numerology, framed by the intuitive expressionism of free improvisation. This is a challenging line-up that allows for beautifully blended harmonies, intricate polyrhythms and abrasive dissonances. Inspirations include the movement of the planet earth through space, Steve Coleman, pioneering saxophone quartet Rova, Tim Berne, and transcriptions of bird song. The group also explores contemporary techniques such as complex time signatures and metric modulations without the presence of a dedicated drummer or percussionist, and harmony without a chordal instrument. All of the members bring their own individual, contrasting voices to the saxophone: Andy’s warm-toned, mellifluous tenor; Chris’s assertive, energetic alto (familiar to fans of Led Bib); Tom’s lyrical, passionate but more reserved alto; and Cath’s fluid, assured baritone. When required, though, the ensemble manages to blend beautifully into a homogenous whole that belies these contrasts.”

Here’s a gig recording for you:


 

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While on the subject of LUME gigs, they’ve just put out a call for crowdfunding for their planned end-of-June London festival:

LUME Festival, 26th June 2016

“We’re rounding off our 2015/16 season of gigs with the first ever LUME Festival. On Sunday 26th June we’re taking over IKLECTIK Art Lab near Waterloo for a one-day celebration of all things LUME: original and improvised music from the UK and beyond, friendly vibes and good times. To make it happen we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign – and we need your support.

After three days of intensive listening and discussion, we’ve put together a day of fresh, cutting-edge new music that your ears won’t be able to get enough of. We had a tough time narrowing it down, but the final lineup is as follows:

  • Ant Traditions (Manchester)
  • Musson/Kjær/Marshall (London)
  • Little Church (Birmingham)
  • Hot Beef Three (Leeds)
  • Blueblut (Austria)
  • Anton Hunter‘s Article XI (Manchester)

Our core programme of LUME gigs this year is supported by Arts Council England, and there will be part of this funding left for the festival. There’s enough to put on about three bands and have a nice evening. But after all the amazing music we’ve listened to, that’s not quite enough for us. We want to do more – and this is where you come in. With your help, we can put on everyone in the list above and pack the day full of music. We’ve also invited Gina Southgate to come and capture the day on canvas, and Alex Fiennes to record the performances!

To make this happen we need to hit a Kickstarter target of £3500, all of which will go towards artist fees and travel expenses. Help us get there by treating yourself to a plethora of exciting rewards including early bird festival tickets and exclusive LUME Festival merchandise: posters, stickers and even limited edition LUME Festival t-shirts. Make sure you’ve got your fix of new original/improvised music sorted for the next twelve months by becoming a LUME member for 2016/17. Join LUME founders Cath and Dee on a special trip to the London Aquarium as an homage to our power animal, the anglerfish. Or for those of you who seek a more exclusive, one-off experience: commission leading avant-jazz quartet and LUME house band Word Of Moth to compose a tune in your honour, perform it at the festival and record it for inclusion on their forthcoming debut album. Yes, that’s a thing that could actually happen. Join us. Let’s do this!”

If you’re interested, here’s the link, and I’ve tracked down a couple of soundclips here.



 

January 2016 – upcoming gigs – Kiran Leonard’s UK mini-tour; Laura Cannell plays Liverpool, Glasgow and Bradford (with In Atoms, Jozef van Wissem, Magpahi and Stephanie Hladowski); in London, a Julian Dawes fundraiser at The Forge and an Ichi show at the Harrison; in New York, Legs play the Manhattan Inn and Rough Trade NYC with Blank Paper, Tropic Of Pisces and SKP (Lip Talk, Cosmicide). And Tom Slatter doesn’t play Brighton, yet…

10 Jan

Born in Oldham, currently Saddleworth-based, but occupying a wayward and exciting multi-instrumental/multi-genre orbit (which takes in, among many others, Todd Rundgren, spangled electronica, Dirty Projectors, Van Morrison and Nancy Chodorow) teenage wunderkind turned twenty-year-old psych-pop pioneer Kiran Leonard embarks on a quick British tour this coming week. For a sampling of what’s on offer, have a listen to Kiran’s most recent single, which examines the panicked, unwilling misogyny of pubescent boys and uses it as a launchpad for sixteen minutes of charging, spontaneous-sounding twist-and-turn musical quest. Spattered with snippets of radio, cut’n’paste ADHD changes and lo-fi turnarounds, it sounds like Lou Reed and Jim O’Rourke grappling over the steering wheel of a gawky teenage Yes.

For the tour, Kiran’s four-piece band features three other flexible Manchester music luminaries. Guitarist Dan Bridgewood Hill also plays as dbh and with NASDAQ, Irma Vep Band and Seatoller), bass player Dave Rowe is from Plank and Andrew Cheetham drums with acts including Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura, Easter, Butcher The Bar, the Birchall/Cheetham Duo and experimental rock duo Yerba Mansa. Support across the dates comes, variously, from Yerba Mansa, introverted Manchester singer-songwriter Tom Settle, Marc Rooney (taking a solo break from his usual band, Glaswegian “past post-modern bug-eyed beatniks” Pronto Mama), Edinburgh rock juveniles Redolent and inventive Sussex girl duo Let’s Eat Grandma.

Something of what to expect from the support bands is below:




This gig info was added to the top of this post at the last minute, and these gigs are selling out fast, so move quickly.

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The past week’s death of Pierre Boulez cast an overwhelming shadow over the classical and avant-garde worlds. Under that pall, it’s easy to forget that breed of composers that the post-war work of Boulez and his acolytes sometimes eclipsed – working at a humbler altitude, often inclined to traditional tonalism and craftsmanship and generally writing for the vast and undersung body of working musicians and small regional music groups, their work’s left out of the big conversations. It may break fewer boundaries, or no boundaries at all, but (to my mind, at least) it doesn’t necessarily have a lesser value. Not only does it often demonstrate an empathy for the musician over the concept, it demonstrates music’s quality of constant giving, showing that the older schemes which a younger and more intemperate Boulez once dismissed as being played out are anything but: revealing an ever-renewing, ever-fertile grain to be worked with and against even in well-mined territories.

To my ears, the work of Julian Dawes fits into this category. Five decades of his composing has produced chamber and keyboard music, theatre compositions, youth pieces, assorted works on Jewish themes (including Kaddish songs, Exodus cantatas and Holocaust pieces) plus an acclaimed mandolin concerto. All of it displays a lambent, empathetic feel for subject, performer and musician; and this coming Wednesday sees some of it compiled for a dedicated concert in London.

A Concert of Commemorative Music by Julian Dawes  (The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England, Wednesday 13th January 2016, 7.30pm) – £9.00 to £12.00 – information & tickets

This is an evening of music which Julian has written to celebrate people and events. The night is also in memory of Emma Daly, and the proceeds of the concert will go to the Rosewood Chemo Ward at the Darenth Valley Hospital.

Programme:

Love Life and Lyric (for soprano and piano)
Reflection on Psalm 43 (for piano) – first concert performance
Homage (for string quartet)
Wedding Song (Louisa) (for soprano, violin & piano) – world premiere
Piano Sonata – world premiere
Bagatelle for a Wedding (for string quartet)
Songs from ‘The Song of Solomon’ (for mezzo soprano, tenor & piano)
String Quartet (slow movement)
Sonata for Violin and Piano

Performers:

The Holywell String Quartet
Vivienne Bellos, Helena Massip (sopranos)
Camille Maalawy (mezzo soprano)
Cantor Jason Green (tenor)
Sophie Lockett, Louisa Stuber (violins)
Mitra Alice Tham, Stephen Dickinson, Andrew Gellert, Alex Knapp, Julian Dawes (piano)

Soundclips of Julian Dawes’ music on the web are few and far between, but I’ve managed to dredge up these two videos – one of Cantor Jason Green performing one of Julian’s vocal pieces, and a low-key one of Julian talking about his work (on behalf of the publishing service Tutti). You can also listen to soundclips of some of his work at the page for Omnibus Classics’ release of his ‘Chamber Music’ CD.


Julian’s most recently completed project is ‘Pesach Cantata’ with a libretto by Roderick Young telling the story of Passover. This will be premiered at the New London Synagogue in April 2016: I’ll post about that closer to the time.

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There are a series of concerts coming up featuring East Anglian musician Laura Cannell. Playing a variety of instruments (predominantly straight or overbowed fiddle and double recorders, but also percussion and “other rarified wind instruments”, Laura fuses early and mediaeval music with a mixed ancient-and-modern approach to improvisation and to transcendent musical ceremony, taking fragments or inspirations from earlier sounds and melodies as the basis for exploration, illustration and linkages.


Laura will be playing up and down the country over the next few months at a variety of different events and locations, Each one has different musicians on the bill – Brooklyn-based Dutch lutenist and composer Josef van Wissem, who’s bringing the baroque lute out towards the worlds of experimental rock, folk and film; Liverpudlian tape-loop composer In Atoms whose “blissful and evocative” soundscapes and tones mix heath music and throbbing clubby sub-bass with the industrial and reveal him straddling Anglo-pastoralism and the European electronic grandeur of the Schultzes and Jarres; and two Yorkshire singers, Stephanie Hladowski (whose work stretches from reggae to traditional folk) and Magpahi (a.k.a. Todmorden based multi-instrumentalist Alison Cooper, who assembles a collage of folk song, fairy tale, Elizabethan poetry and dreamworld sonics from a variety of instruments and is inspired by “sepia stories, stray animals and recurring dreams of migration”).

Here’s the gig list, and something from each of Laura’s gigmates (including something quite rare from Magpani via the Was Is Das clubnight and promotions):





Laura has further gigs coming up later in the year, which I’ll also be posting about in due course.

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Born in Nagoya, (but now based in Bristol with his wife and collaborator, alt.folk singer Rachael Dadd) Ichi is paying London another visit with his truckload of invented instruments and mind-snagging riffs, digging a dayglo-lined tunnel between the avant-garde and a children’s playroom.

Ichi (The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, London, WC1H 8JF, UK, Saturday 23rd January 2016, 8.00pm) – £11.00 – informationtickets

From the Harrison’s blurb:

Ichi takes the notion of a one-man band to new limits, combining his quirky handmade instrument inventions (stilt-bass, kalilaphone, balloon-pipes, hatbox-pedal-drum, tapumpet, percussion-shoes & hat-trick-hat) with steel-drum, ping-pong balls, toys & everyday objects all in the space of one short set. Somehow there’s an ancient, ritualistic feel to his performances – he’s like the misplaced leader of a tribe. To see Ichi live is to witness something so playful and unusual you know that you’re experiencing something entirely new. It`s fun, it`s danceable, it`s exciting…. Also a practicing and exhibiting artist and film-maker, Ichi is usually seen with a cine camera in his hand, or his hands rooting through Bristol skips for materials for his musical and sculptural inventions, or his hands in the earth making human sized interactive earth xylophones as he did at Bristol`s Forage Festival.

And where words fail, there’s always the video to Ichi’s recent single Go Gagambo, “a song about mistaken identity (gagambo is an insect unfortunate enough to be mistaken as a big mosquito, resulting in probable death by angry clapping hands)”.


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I’d been hoping to bring you news of London acoustic steampunk-prog hero Tom Slatter playing Britain’s first actual steampunk bar (the recently opened Yellow Book, which is squirreled away in the Lanes of Brighton and claims to have been founded by time-travelling Victorians). Sadly not. Message just in – “This gig has been postponed. Don’t go there expecting to see me on the 23rd! Do go there if you want to see the venue, which is lovely. I will be playing at the Yellow Book in the near future. Watch this space.”

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Lastly, there are a couple of New York gigs (this week and towards the end of the month) by a ‘Misfit City’ favourite of recent years, Brooklyn-based groove-pop band Legs, who mix irresistible New Wave dance grooves with twitchy emotional neurosis and a verbose, occasional waspish Steely Dan-esque approach to songcraft under the double-keyboard licks.

Legs + SKP (Hypnocraft @ The Manhattan Inn, 632 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11222, USA, Monday 11th January 2016, 8.30pm) – free event (suggested $5.00-$10.00- information

This pay-what-you-like gig is a Legs headliner, at which they’re supported by SKP – a.k.a. Sarah Kyle, frontwoman of Brooklyn psychedelic pop band Lip Talk. Sarah is also a member of recent Interpol tourmates Cosmicide, which features most of Lip Talk plus ex-Secret Machines leader Brandon Curtis.


Blank Paper + Tropic Of Pisces + Legs (Rough Trade NYC, 64 N 9th Street, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11249, USA, Friday 22nd January 2016, 8.00pm) – information here and heretickets

This latter one’s a bottom-of-the-bill show for Legs. Swings and roundabouts, but they can play on both. At least they get to perform at Rough Trade (should be a natural audience booster) and they also get to act as warm-up and gig primer for two other stylish and eminently compatible Brooklyn acts. Keytar-wielding Blank Paper mix up classic hip hop rhythms, distant glimmering-city synthpop tones and vocals with just the right degree of hauteur for detached explorations of love and obsession sheathed in immaculate tunes. Tropic Of Pisces is the new project from Mon Khmer/Oberhofer sideman Mathew Scheiner – his geeky white-boy solo funk seems to be inspired equally by glam, hip hop and South African township jive, though he himself describes it as “a warm, magical place that you must be special enough to have found.” Judge for yourselves below via the videos, with their ninja noir and tinfoil chic.


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More gig news next time, including shows by Of Arrowe Hill and Earl Zinger with the Emanative & Collocutor Duo; plus an appearance by Sealionwoman.

The Manchester Jazz Festival (31st July to 9th August)

31 Jul

One of the reasons that I’ve been posting so many concert previews recently is simply that (being mostly homebound at the moment) I miss going to gigs. Looking at the lineup and scope of the 2015 Manchester Jazz Festival (which starts today and runs rampant for ten days through until 9th August) reminds me that not only do I regret not attending the wealth of music that takes place here in London, but that I miss more freewheeling days of music elsewhere. Discovering unexpected, treasurable bands at random while on holiday in Brugge, for instance; or immersing myself in a week of concerts and more in Edinburgh or Leeds (such as the one I reviewed here, over a decade ago.)

We know that, as a British pop and dance city, Manchester punches well above its weight. Despite a bubbling undercurrent of improvised music, its reputation as a jazz town is hazier…. or, more probably, I’m just ignorant. The Festival’s been going for twenty years, long enough to gain enough gravity to generate its own traditions. (One such is ‘Surroundings’,  a longer-form ensemble piece by Salford composer Neil Yates. Commissioned for the festival in 2010, it seems to have become the event’s unofficial signature – this year, it’s being revisited as a quartet performance in the Central Library Reading Room.)

Even a quick sift through this year’s programme reveals a jazz party that any city would be proud of – diverse, inclusive, inviting and multi-levelled, an exciting noise ranging from the stately to the vividly scraggled and all the better for it.  With many tickets going at only four pounds, (with a ten-pound all-events daily ticket and free-entry deals if you stump up as a low-level event sponsor), they could hardly have made it any more inviting to the casual walker-upper. Excuse me for a moment while I strip-mine press releases and YouTube, and check Soundcloud pages and Bandcamp links.

Starting with the higher-end, bigger name events…  Acclaimed Blue Note pianist Robert Glasper slips away from his experimentations with latterday R’n’B to get back to basics with an acoustic trio;  John Surman re-teams with the Trans4mation String Quartet to revive the thoughtful, tidally-deep music from his ‘Coruscating’ and ‘The Spaces in Between’ albums. Norma Winstone, Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier bring along their trans-European project DistancesPartisans bring their transatlantic swing storm; Christine Tobin  her ‘Thousand Kisses Deep’ jazzification of Leonard Cohen songs. French Jazz Musician of the Year Airelle Besson makes an appearance with her Quartet for a set of “gently experimental songs animated by heartfelt lyrics, plaintive melodies and rolling harmonies.” backed with pinballing rhythms and punchy countersyncopations.

There are heavyweight two-headed summit performances by acclaimed British jazz talents – one by frequent quartet buddies Mike Walker and Gwilym Simcock, another by the more recent pairing of Tori Freestone and Alcyona Mick.  Two further British scene fast risers – Stuart McCallum and Alice Zawadzki – bring string-enhanced performances of ongoing projects (the former offering contemporary soul jazz and bass-heavy electronica with surprise guest singers, the latter a fantastical Mancunian song cycle influenced by various shades of love and fairytale).

There are also several of those gentler, more literate projects which seem to blossom best in a festival atmosphere away from a hot core of gutsy brass.  Andrew Woodhead and Holly Thomas’ Snapdragon trio specialize in chilled, ethereal song-settings of literature and poetry (Larkin and Bukowski-inspired) and bursts of vocalese. Mark Pringle‘s A Moveable Feast mates orchestral strings with a bold horn and rhythm section to explore “themes of wildlife, literature and city chaos.”  The “fractured Anglicana” of Hugh Nankivell’s multi-instrumental/four-part vocal quartet Natural Causes means that they perform “curious compositions with  improbable but poignant texts” including “psychedelic lullabies, pinprick-precise ballads, unpredictable group improvisation and brotherly harmony across the board”, and music which draws on classic and contemporary art pop (Robert Wyatt, XTC and Björk) as much as it does on jazz sources.

Elsewhere, much of the polyglot diversity of jazz today is celebrated. The Cuban tradition is represented by the Pepe Rivero Trio and Orquesta Timbala; the Congolese by Eddy Tshepe Tshepela‘s Afrika Jazz. Central and South American ideas are brought along by Agua Pasa (who, with  Dudley Nesbit’s steel pan project Pan Jumby,  also touch on the Caribbean).  The Quarry Hillbillies (a teaming of Ulrich Elbracht, Ed Jones, Jamil Sheriff) from European contemporary jazz, while the frenetic whirl of Eastern European folk elements are covered by Makanitza.  The Gorka Benítez Trio move between Basque-flavoured small group jazz and compelling free-form impressionism. David Austin Grey’s Hansu-Tori ensemble is inspired by natural, elemental and cinematic” ideas, as well as a fascination with Eastern world culture.  Percussionist Felix Higginbottom’s Hans Prya  provides genre-hopping jazz-dance and Jim Molyneux’s Glowrogues favour funk and hip-hop flavoured pieces. Trumpeter Lily Carassik‘s fusion group Yesa Sikyi take ideas from the ’50s and blend them with popular standards and soul arrangements; while The Stretch Trio include glossier elements from ’70s jazz rock, progressive rock and ’80s pop along with sinuous gusts of wind synth.

Those who prefer classic jazz – more traditional by-the-book American styles – might prefer Russell Henderson and Jamie Taylor’s Ellington-and-Strayhorn tribute ‘The Intimacy Of The Blues’, or the Dan Whieldon Trio‘s salute to Gershwin. The Dave Kane Quartet take inspiration from the knottier ambitions of Charles Mingus, John Zorn and Eric Dolphy. Two groups of students from the Royal Northern College of Music provide live celebrations of the history which they’ve been learning – the James Girling Quintet  spans jazz, blues and funk from New Orleans roots through to the 1960s, while the Nick Conn Octet (a self-described “trombone choir”) interweaves re-arranged jazz classics with original material.

Fans of New Orleans jazz can check out genuine New Orleaners The Session (who offer a past-present take on their hometown’s music), or look out for the street sounds of the New York Brass Band (actually from old York, the cheeky buggers) or see how the Riot Jazz Brass Band dust up old New Orleans sounds with dancefloor, dubstep and drum-and-bass incursions. Hot jazz/Gypsy/jazz manouche aficionados can go for the loving recreations of 52 Skidoo (who promise you prohibition speakeasies, rent parties and Tin Pan Alley) or for Gypsies Of Bohemia, who manouche-ify latterday pop songs such as Heart Of Glass, Toxic and Hot In Herre. (Being Mancunian, they also do This Charming Man – I’ll bet that that high-life opening riff translates pretty well).

Of course, much of the fun of a jazz festival involves catching a lesser-known, or even unknown, band carving away at the edge, furiously discovering – and there are plenty of those here. Since they drew me into covering the festival in the first place, I’m going to put a particular word in for Jon Thorne’s Sunshine Brothers (playing at Matt & Phreds on 4th August) in which the double bass/laptop-wielding Jon teams up with drummer Rob Turner (of Blue Note-signed breakbeat jazz electronicists GoGo Penguin) and looping poly-genre bass guitarist Steve Lawson (a ‘Misfit City’ regular) for “a cutting-edge trio of genre-defying musicians mixing jazz, improvisation, electronic and filmic soundscapes to euphoric effect, evoking sounds far removed from their bass origins.”

However, you could just as easily catch a full performance by GoGo Penguin themselves; or by Lauren Kinsella’s Blue-Eyed Hawk, who offer “art-rock, jazz and electronic soundworlds: imaginative and emotive, from pindrop to powerhouse.” The Madwort Saxophone Quartet play intricate four-part math-jazz. “Power-jazz commando team” Taupe (a triple-city trio from Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh) punch around themes from jazz, hip hop and heavy metal. Craig Scott’s Lobotomy seem determined to take the cake for upfront experimental exhilaration this time around, delivering shout-outs to John Cage, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, proclaiming a performance in which “experimental jazz rubs shoulders with electronica and DIY alternative rock in a bubbling cauldron of live and recorded sounds” and promising to sample and reconstruction their own improvisations live on stage.  There’ll also be a improvised summit involving bands associated with Manchester’s Efpi Records and Paris’ Onze Heures Onze collective.

One way into discovery is to take advantage of the free showcases for emerging bands. Care of the BBC’s ‘Jazz On 3’, London offers three bands – Nérija ( the all-female creative septet from the Tomorrow’s Warriors jazz school), the award-winning piano jazz of the Ashley Henry Trio and the decidedly psychedelic Phaze Theory (a quartet of drums, tuba, voice and guitar dedicated to “exploring the vastness of the musical cosmos”).

But perhaps it’s Jazz North’s Northern Line series that you should be checking out, showcasing bands from the north and the Midlands. Manchester offers the Iain Dixon/Les Chisnall Duo (whose repertoire of self-defined standards stretches from Messaien to Gracie Fields) and the John Bailey Quintet  (guitar-led, and similarly inspired by twentieth century classical music). Newcastle provides barrel-house blues and ballads from The Lindsay Hannon Plus and the tricky free jazz/folk/rock/dancefloor entwinings of the Graeme Wilson Quartet. Lancaster and Liverpool provide one act apiece – Andrew Grew’s “total improvisers” The Grew Quartet and the “gothic bebop” of Blind Monk Trio, who claim to fuse the spirit of Thelonius Monk with Persian traditional music and the heavy-rock attitude of Led Zeppelin and Nirvana’s heavy-rock attitude.

However, it’s Leeds (still underrated as a musical powerhouse despite the world-class output of its music college and the vigorous inventiveness of its bands) which dominates the Northern Line. As well as providing the previously-mentioned Pan Jumby, Leeds brings the Portuguese/African/Latin  and Indian song-fusions of Manjula, the Django Reinhardt swing of the Matt Holborn Quartet, Cameron Vale‘s ferociously energetic melange of jazz, metal, electronica, Afrobeat and Klezmer and the semi-electric “extreme, eerie to comic” improvisations of Tipping Point (featuring perpetual bad-boy pianist Matthew Bourne).  Friendly rivalry aside, there’s also co-operation: Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool all join forces in The Bugalu Foundation for a Latin barrio take on northern soul.

Around all of this jazz there’s the usual happy agglomeration of related music – not quite jazz in itself, but possibly sharing a drink or a roll-up somewhere along the way. The festival covers various popular outcropping such as soul (in assorted Northern, jazz and diva forms courtesy of The Juggernaut Love Band, Terry Shaltiel & The Soultroopers, Charlie Cooper & The CCs) but also ’60s/‘70s funk (Buffalo Brothers), ’70s Afrobeat and Ethiopian pop (Kalakuta), ska (Baked à la Ska) and mbalax (Mamadou & The Super Libidor Band). There’s even an alt-country act (Stevie Williams & The Most Wanted Band) sneaking in at the back door. As for rock’n’roll/folk/reggae/swing scavengers The Flat Cap 3… well, for starters, there’s only two of them, so you can be dubious about anything else you might read, but don’t let that put you off.

Three female songwriters are also bringing their bands, coming from a folk or world music zone and overlapping into jazz. Kirsty McGee leads her Hobopop Collective through a “joyful, dirty” sound drawing from gospel, blues and a collection of found instruments (including musical saw, waterphone, Humber hubcaps and metal buckets). The constantly shifting song landscapes of the Zoe Kyoti Trio draw from their leader’s Armenian and Greek heritage (as well as Cajun, European and Indian ideas). Saluting home-brewed British polyculture, Shama Rahman‘s ensemble explore her London home, her Bangladeshi roots, and her childhood memories of Middle Eastern desert landscapes in a “sitar,stories and song” melange of  jazz-inspired improvisation, classically-inspired melodies and folk-inspired storytelling accompanied by energetic rhythms of swing, funk, hip hop, bossa nova and drum’n’bass.

For parents of very young children, needing to balance a jazz fix with family responsibilities, there are a couple of fully interactive kids’ events with activities, storytelling and improvisations.  The Living Story Music Ensemble and illustrator Ann Gilligan collaborate on ‘I Have A Duck Who Can Roar’; the blues-and-roots-tinged Hillary Step Quartet work with storyteller Ursula Holden Gill and dancers from The Dalcroze Society for ‘How Monkey Found His Swing’. Once the kids are attended to, there are still interactive events for the grown-ups, whether you’re talking about the all-in jazz vinyl night, the mixed-genre dj sets by Mr Scruff, Franny Eubanks‘ open-door blues jam or (for the more technologically inquisitive)  Rodrigo Constanzo‘s showcasing of his dfscore software. The latter’s a creative music tool, cueing improvisers via graphical, visual and written clues: on this occasion, anyone with an instrument and a connectible smartphone/tablet/pad should be able to roll up and join in with the roar, joining some leading improvisers in performing music in tandem with the system.

For those remaining soundclips which I’ve not already snatched and pasted, visit the MJF Soundcloud page here … but better yet, if you’re anywhere near Manchester over the next few weeks, drop in at the festival (it’s hard to miss, considering that it’s not just hiding behind club doors but has effectively taken over the town’s main square for a fortnight). Seeing something this impressive light up and roll on fills me with delight – even if on this occasion I’m also filled with rue at not being able to go myself.  But never mind me…

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